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C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America If you want to know whether you can still laugh while your mouth is dropping open in shock, then you won't want to miss the… Unrated PT89M Comedy Fernando Arenas Sean Blake IFC Films
Movie Review

C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America

MPAA Rating: Unrated

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CSA: The Confederate States of America | 'AMERICA' THE BEAUTIFUL A sly, scary look at a world without a land of the free
'AMERICA' THE BEAUTIFUL A sly, scary look at a world without a land of the free
EW's GRADE
A-

Details Rated: Unrated; Length: 89 Minutes; Genre: Comedy; With: Fernando Arenas; Distributor: IFC Films

If you want to know whether you can still laugh while your mouth is dropping open in shock, then you won't want to miss the disturbingly hilarious mock documentary C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America. It's a fearless and brilliant racial-historical satire, done in a meticulous re-creation of the Ken Burns mode, that chronicles the last 150 years of America as if the South had won the Civil War. That's right: Jefferson Davis gets elected president, Lincoln escapes in blackface with the aid of Harriet Tubman (''We both n-----s now, Mr. President!''), and slavery is established throughout the land. The writer-director, Kevin Willmott, works with a scandalous daring matched by his dexterous manipulation of archival reality. He mixes photographs and films, historical figures actual and fake, plus talking heads and sick-joke racist commercials until fact and fiction eerily merge.

A snippet from a D.W. Griffith film depicting Lincoln's capture is tastelessly funny, but later, an ''actual'' 1905 clip of the forgotten former president has a haunting plausibility. C.S.A., like Philip Roth's The Plot Against America, is a dense counterhistory that ingeniously undermines your disbelief. As the Confederate States turns into a domesticated haven of white supremacy, even signing a truce with Hitler during World War II, the movie gets you to think, Could this actually have happened? The audacious upshot of C.S.A. is that in a place with the still-thriving racial demons of America, it sort of did.

Originally posted Nov 16, 2005 Published in issue #851 Nov 25, 2005 Order article reprints